'I want to convey something in an image that transcends a great body and face. I want that energy and connection.'
I have loved, and been following the work of Florida photographer Charles Archer since first seeing his work with a model named Jack Jr back in 2010. There was something so honest about Charles work I was drawn to. Over the course of working on FH, I have come to love so many types and styles artists use in the capturing of a model. The traditional studio shoot is not only costly, but impractical for so many artists who shoot the the male form.
I love that documentary style was used to describe Charles work. I would also add interactive into the description. Photographers don't sit by the phone, or the computer, accepting offer after offer from models to shoot. So much of the work is communication and connection. Building a reputation, a portfolio and most of all trust. Good photographers learn how to work with models on their terms, with their boundaries, with their fantasy's and fears. Charles has mastered this skill and the featured images are just a sampling of the results. Charles graciously supplied so many images, and so many stories, a part two is definitely in order!
Can you share your first experience shooting a naked model? Were you nervous, how did it come about, how did it turn out?
'I have to take you back to 1990. I reached out to a photographer in Norfolk, VA who operated a studio called "Photo Opportunities". He was taking photos of male nudes and selling them in the gay papers and gay magazines. He would sell a pack of 5 prints and pay his models a commission on what he sold. Anyway, I reached out to him to express my interests in photography and I was very intrigued in what he was doing. I lived in Richmond and he invited me down to Norfolk to participate in a photo shoot. So I arrived in Norfolk - met David - who was a really nice guy. He introduced me to the model we were going to shoot.'
'I was extremely nervous. I mean here I am with a camera about to shoot a naked man! I don't remember his name but he was very handsome - cute. He had long hair and striking eyes. He flirted with me as we were doing the shoot. I could barely concentrate on what I was doing. The photos actually turned out pretty good even though at the time I didn't know what aperture was or shutter speed. I learned a lot from that experience and eventually started working with the photographer shooting some of the same models. We ended up shooting another model that weekend and I experienced photographing my first cum shot. I still have those photos and negatives. They are a part of my "print" portfolio.'
How you go about approaching a stranger about heading to a hotel and taking off all their clothes for the camera?
'I have some business cards that actually have some of my suggestive images on the back. I have presented strangers with a business card and have said, "I like your look. I'd love to photograph you." . Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I stopped in a clothing store once in San Diego. There I met Alex. We chatted and there was a connection so I said I'd love to photograph you. I gave him a card and he contacted me.I explained that I don't have a studio in San Diego but I shoot in my hotel room. He said he liked my work and was interested. I explained to him fully the process that I go through to do a shoot. And it is a process.'
'I want to make sure that the model is completely comfortable with everything that we are doing. I also tell them if I ask for a pose and they are not comfortable with it, we can shift directions and do something else. I respect the men that I shoot and I guess that comes across in the initial communication with them. I would never put a model in a situation that is going to make them regret doing a photo shoot. For what it's worth, I have photographed myself in the same manner that I have photographed others. I'm not ashamed of it and will often share that with a prospective model. AND I'm NO model!'
'I have had a lot of people approach me to be photographed. Which is great! I guess they like the realness of my images. A photographer friend calls most of my images documentary in style. I can see how he would stay that when you photograph a man completely clothed to nothing at all. It's like I'm following their every move and documenting it.'
What was the most memorable response from a guy who said No?
'Yes!!! I had flown to Seattle to do a shoot one weekend. This was a TFP - Time for Print shoot with 1 model. He had lined up another model and a stylist/makeup artist. I was going to shoot the 2 models separately and then together. I was doing portfolio work with them all. I talked to all involved in the shoot before hand so we were all clear on what we were doing. The plan was to do some clothed shooting outdoors and then some nudes.'
'It was a beautiful day in Seattle - warm and sunny. I was staying at a B&B. We all got together at the B&B and then started the session. I actually photographed the models getting ready. It was going well. We went to a local park and took some very cute photos of the guys solo and together. We broke for lunch and then went back to the B&B to do the nudes. One of the models was all for it. I think he had a crush on the other model. The other model, however, did NOT want to do any nudes - even implied. I wasn't happy. I mean I flew across the country for this and the model was not going to back out of our agreement. I got some great shots of both models. But I'm a man of my word and expect the people I work with to be the same. If you don't shoot nudes - then don't check that box on your Model Mayhem profile!'
Curious what you look for? Is it body, attitude, face or overall look? Are there days you just want to shoot a redhead, or a hairy guy, does your mood play into who you shoot?
'Interesting question. I think we are all drawn to a beautiful body and face. I would be lying to you if I said that I didn't look at someone's face and body before I decide to shoot them. However, attitude takes precedence. I want someone who is open minded and has energy. I want to convey something in an image that transcends a great body and face. I want that energy and connection.'
'If I can't connect to the man I'm shooting then it's not working for either of us. And when I say connect it's not a sexual thing. It's connecting as another man or human being. It's about trust and the model being open to the vulnerability that comes with nude modeling. I like confidence more than anything. After all, I photograph mostly straight men and they are more confident with themselves than most gay men I have photographed.'
'I've only shot maybe 1 or two redheads. So if there are any other there who want to be a part of my work, please get in touch with me! I like hair on the men that I photograph because it adds texture - to what could be I think could be a flat image. Plus it (hair) looks natural. I do love photographing a hairy man but if someone is naturally smooth, that's great too. Just don't shave your pubic hair off! Most of the straight men I photograph come to the photo session with no pubic hair. I guess they watch too much porn!'